Don't Ask Your Kids What Kind of Parent You Are. They'll Tell You.

We’re in a discussion about how my interest in mothering tends to go in spurts. Prone to attacks of guilt about my free range parenting, which instills independence or insubordination depending on who’s looking (judging), I occasionally have these moments where I fix one of my daughters with an earnest stare and say in a hushed voice, “Am I a good mother?”

Sometimes the answer is a semi-patronizing, "We know you try to do your best" or "You mean well" or the more painful "You are what you are. We know that and we love you" (you can hear the "anyway" at the end of that one, can't you?).

More often it's "What have you been reading, Mom?" because I told them a story once about an episode in my high school years.

My mom came out onto the back deck where I was sunbathing, fixed me with an earnest stare and said, "Do we pressure you into getting good grades?"

I looked at her and said, "What magazine article have you been reading?" Her face told me I had hit the mark.

"Don't worry," I said. "I pressure myself." She went back inside, much relieved.

In this particular discussion on my parenting "skills" a while back with Eldest Daughter she quoted the author of Teen-Proofing: Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager—one of the many parenting books purchased by me, read by her, so that at least one of us knows how to raise children.


The quote: “There comes a point at which you just have to give up on that one and focus on the next kid.”

“So you’re the practice one and she’s perfect?” (referring to Second Daughter, beside me on the sofa).

“Well of course,” says Eldest. “Just look at her—she’s awesome!”

“You’re both awesome,” I say.

“Damn straight!” she agrees.

I go on: “I especially love the way in which I instilled” (Eldest chimes in simultaneously) “modesty.”

“No shit,” she says.

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